Watching the quarterbacks of Aledo's past helped inspire Tanner Matlick to ensure that Mercer County's football future would be paved in gold.
"Adam Hines is a big reason I am who I am today," said Matlick, referring to Aledo's starting signal-caller for its 2005 and 2006 state runner-up teams. "Seeing him play in two state finals was a big reason why I wanted to play, why I committed to football."
Capping a stellar prep career by throwing for 1,977 yards and 21 touchdowns to earn Class 2A All-State honors from the Illinois Football Coaches Association, the 2012 Area Player of the Year for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus used his senior season to leave his own signpost to inspire future Golden Eagle quarterbacks.
Matlick helped guide Mercer County to a 14-0 season, capped with a 14-7 victory over Belleville Althoff in the Class 2A state finals at Champaign that gave the Golden Eagles their first state championship since Aledo and Westmer consolidated in 2009.
Was state the team's ultimate goal? "Yeah, somewhat. Our seniors came in knowing we could do something special this year. One of our main goals was to get to Champaign, and we accomplished that."
Did you feel this team could go 14-0? "We knew we were a special group -- in 8th grade, Aledo and Westmer played each other for what was like the junior-high title; we were both 6-0 -- but we didn't realize it until Week 2 of the playoffs, when we beat Rockford Lutheran pretty bad (42-14). That's when we realized that maybe this is the year we'd go all the way."
Season's highlight? "Definitely winning the state championship. I've wanted that since I was little, watching the guys at Aledo when I was growing up and seeing them play down at state."
What will you miss the most about this team? "I'd say our closeness. We have 16 seniors, and for the majority of the guys, it was like a second family. It's a great group of guys, and wherever I play college football, I won't feel that kind of closeness. High school football is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you should cherish."
College plans? "I've been talking to a lot of college football coaches. Monmouth is getting serious about me, and I've also talked to Western Illinois, Quincy, Wisconsin-Platteville, but I haven't really decided yet. I hope to major in business, and I'll take some visits and see where it goes from there.''
Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Col. H.F. Sickless informs us that there will be new organization of troops in this state under the call for more men. 1889 -- 125 years ago: James Normoyle arrived home after graduating from West Point with honors in the class of 1889. He was to report to Fort Brady, Mich., as second lieutenant in the 23rd Infantry. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Austria Hungary declared war on Serbia. Germany and Austria refused an invitation of Sir Edward Grey to join Great Britain at a mediation conference. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Dr. William Mayo, the last of the three famous Mayo brother surgeons, died at the age of 78. 1964 -- 50 years ago: One of the biggest horse shows of the season was held yesterday at Hillandale Arena on Knoxville Road under the sponsorship of the Illowa Horsemen's Club. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Davenport is like a gigantic carnival this weekend with the Bix Arts Fest taking over 12 square blocks of the downtown area. A festive atmosphere prevailed Friday as thousands of people turned out to sample what the Arts Fest has to offer.